Improved Results from a Standardized Approach in Treating Patients with Necrotizing Fasciitis

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Necrotizing fasciitis has been associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Thirty-three patients were studied over a 3-year period. Predisposing factors included intravenous drug abuse (30%), diabetes (21%), and obesity (18%). Severe pain (94%) and abnormal temperature (88%) were present, whereas laboratory data and x-ray were nonspecific. Gram-positive organisms were most frequently recovered (B-hemolytic streptococcus 45%). Treatment consisted of antibiotics, surgical debridement, re-exploration 24 hours before surgery, nutritional support, and early soft tissue coverage as needed. Mean duration from admission to operation was 43 hours. The average number of operative debridements was three and the average length of hospitalization was 47 days. Patients operated on less than 12 hours from admission or greater than 48 hours had shorter hospital stays (36 and 38 days). The critical time period was 12–48 hours after admission; all deaths (2) and amputations (3) were in this group and the average hospital stay was 62 days (p < 0.05). The number of operations did not correlate to hospital stay. Despite antibiotics and aggressive debridement, significant morbidity exists if operation is delayed more than 12 hours. Methods of early detection such as local bedside diagnostic incision and fascial inspection may be needed in high risk patients to further reduce the morbidity and mortality.

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